Put On Your Sonnet Bonnet!

April isn’t over, so even though I haven’t mentioned it in recent posts, we’re still celebrating National Poetry Month!

NPM1Regular readers of my blog know my fondness for the sonnet form. Posts from July 30, 2010 and October 23, 2013 relate one of my goals was (is) to write one hundred sonnets. The earlier post mentioned that I’d originally set the goal to be accomplished in a single year. I fell short and decided it was more realistic to adopt this as a lifetime goal. (Phew!)

ASIDE:  For reader convenience, I’ve set up Wise Blood Galleries so readers may click right through to either my Sonnet posts or my Verse posts. (The galleries are available at the top of the Wise Blood Home page.)

The Redeemed Reader website is one I enjoy. With a primary focus on children’s literature, the writers of Redeemed Reader offer book reviews, interviews and a ton of other resources for cultivating a love of reading. Though my childhood is far in the past, I can still enjoy being a child at heart and their posts provide me with food for thought and enjoyment.

Truthfully, I wish I’d had this website as a resource back when I home-educated my kiddos. I consider their posts a gold-mine … I and my children would have cherished RR input way back when!

Imagine my delight when earlier this month Redeemed Reader announced their salute to National Poetry Month and challenged aspiring young poets to test their skill at the sonnet form! (The contest ends at midnight tonight.)

In addition to some helpful general instruction in the Shakespearean sonnet form (with links to other sonnets written by well-known poets), Redeemed Reader included a bonus … a link to a sonnet template as a helpful tool for beginning sonnet writers. This printable template unpacks the sonnet form for students (of all ages).

You don’t have to be an aspiring young poet (i.e. school-age) to try your hand at the sonnet form. Grab a copy of that RR template now, print it out and give it a whirl! Come on, you know you want to do it!

… Of course, I hope you’ll share your results here!


Dog Blog

People who know me quickly come to understand I’m not a dog lover. It is a fact of my life about which I’ve recently had some serious pangs of guilt. I believe all animals are God’s creatures. Because God created them, they deserve respect from humans. Almost every family that has a dog (or dogs) has ceded familial love to them. In principle, I get that.

However, when I married my husband, he was (like me) tender to animals in general but disinterested in the idea of family pets … at least for us. Neither of us cared for animals that bark, jump up and take liberties to lick you uninvited.

All that changed (for my husband, anyway) more than ten years ago when our son and daughter-in-law brought a puppy named Tank through the door. If you’d like to read this story in greater detail, I posted about it here.

More on my pangs of guilt in a minute, but I thought I’d temporarily shift into a semi-friendly mode and share this lighthearted poem about “my dog” which is a wholly fictional account. Written many years ago, I could only imagine what dog ownership might be like. This was the result.

In reality, Tank isn’t a mutt but a pure-bred Labrador Retriever. (The above picture of Tank with my husband is only added for visual interest.) Showing how long ago this poem was written, today’s license tags today surely exceeded the seven bucks threshold long ago.

Tank is an indoor dog. Because he’s a black labrador, he sheds stiff, thick black hair everywhere. We don’t allow him in areas of the house that are carpeted, but his shed hair still gets carried throughout the house! When he’s been outdoors, he’ll return with a layer of dirt and grime covering his coat. Consequently, wherever he lies down, the area will have a noticeable layer of dirt after he moves elsewhere. (This is like having the Charlie Brown character Pigpen living in my home!)

Tank’s dog bed is ensconced in my laundry room, so whenever I enter that room, I have to step over him, step over his large dog bed (which he only occasionally uses) and breathe what is (to me) dog air. [Don't even let me start on the stench emanating from within my husband's pickup truck where the dog often spends time. It's awful!] I would be less than candid if I neglected to admit one time when Tank wandered off and was gone about a week, I felt sorry for my husband … while inwardly I rejoiced at the prospect of retrieving my laundry room for exclusive use as a laundry room!

Maybe I’m a baby, but can you sense the rationale behind my negative attitude? Those of you who are dog lovers, I understand if you don’t feel the same (or if you conclude I’m a creature from another planet). But can you see my side of things, if only a bit?

Back to my pangs of guilt, yes, I feel bad about my hostility to this four-legged creature. When I must sweep up the dirt and debris he leaves behind, my resulting resentment disgusts me. My heart accuses me of being an unfeeling beast! And there’s not a shred of denial because the pangs of guilt I feel are condemnation enough. But love? Nope, I don’t have it in me. Nada.

So today, as a means of penance, I tip my poetic pen to Tank the dog. If I ever wanted to have a dog, he’d be the one.


Who Likes Change?

Out with the old … in with the new?

heading-940-by-198.gifFor my subscribers, this blog is recognizably different than a week ago. My younger daughter, the Chatelaine of Raising Camelot, had grown tired of the blood platelet template. Because she’s talented and able to create the best designs, she went to work!

At the same time she set things up with a whole new look, we decided this would be a perfect time to move hosting from WordPress to an independent hosting site. We’re still pretty green in our understanding of how things work outside of WordPress (though I’ll continue to post using the WP user interface). Still, we have plenty of questions about the practical aspects of marriage between a self-hosted blog and the WordPress interface, so the next couple weeks will definitely be a learning experience.

If you’re a subscriber who has followed this blog via the WP web address wiseblooding.wordpress.com/ that’s been changed to http://wiseblooding.com/ Please make a note of the new web address for future reference. I hope subscribers will continue to receive email notification of new posts … but I’m not entirely sure.

For those of you who’ve made this leap before me, if you have any tips on navigating these unfamiliar waters, I’m all ears (eyes?). Please share your expertise.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me thus far and I hope you continue as we launch into the unknown. I’d love to know what you think of the new look, too!


Just As He Said

resurrection1The Sabbath had come to an end. A new day began to dawn − Sunday, the first day of the week.

As the sun rose, the women who followed Jesus were already on their way to the tomb. Even though they knew the body of Jesus had been placed in a tomb, they hoped to prepare his body for a more permanent burial. Getting that task underway in the cool of the day was preferable.

They were still reeling from the reality of their friend’s brutal crucifixion! They hadn’t been able to visit the tomb on the Sabbath, but now they could minister to Jesus’ body; it was the least they could do for him now!

Sometime before their arrival at the tomb, a severe earthquake had occurred. Matthew tells us (28:1-10) an angel stood at the opening of the tomb, having rolled away the stone. The appearance of angels (“like lightning” with garments “as white as snow”) would have terrified anyone. The guards who’d been stationed at the tomb were so frightened, they “became like dead men.”

But the women (who may have been afraid at first … since an angel told them “Don’t be afraid.”) were unwilling to be put off. They were “… looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just as he saidBible_050.”

Imagine their delight! He’s alive? He’s really alive? They must have pinched each other just to confirm they weren’t all dreaming! He’s alive! We’ve got to get to Galilee! “They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to his disciples.”

The women ran to report what they’d seen and heard, but the disciples responded with predictable skepticism, suggesting the women were speaking “nonsense, and they would not believe them.” But Peter got up immediately and ran to the tomb.

[Remember Jesus' words, Peter? Remember?]

When Peter “… saw the linen wrappings only … he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.” Peter didn’t return to where the disciples had been. Instead, he went home, ready to begin a new chapter in his life … following a risen Christ!

For me, I’m drawn to the narrative where Jesus appears to a weeping Mary. She sees a man whom she supposes to be a gardener and she asks where they’ve taken Jesus. Her grief has been unremitting and now she thinks, they’ve stolen his body away. But, the moment Jesus calls her “Mary!” she recognizes him. When she runs to tell her friends, she joyfully announces, “I have seen the Lord.”

Each of the Gospels includes numerous appearances of Jesus Christ following his death and resurrection. These appearances may seem trivial to some, unlikely to others, imaginary to others still.

Personally, I find these accounts amazing and exciting. Think about the disciples huddling in their meeting place (or residences) on the Sabbath Day after Jesus had been crucified on Good Friday. Not a one of them has any inkling of what will take place on Easter morning. They remained devastated, cut to the core, not a shred of hope to grasp, all of them wondering how they could have been so mistaken! More than likely, each one of them had listened to Jesus, but what they heard was what they chose to hear … as many times as Jesus had told them he was going to Jerusalem to die, when it actually happened, the disciples were stunned!

We don’t have a complete account of all the times Jesus appeared to his friends before he ascended into Heaven. The Gospel accounts were never meant to be exhaustive works detailing every aspect of Jesus’ life on earth. The entire Bible contains more than 31,000 verses. The final verse of John’s gospel states:  There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I think the whole world would not be big enough for all the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

But we know this:  during his lifetime (as reflected within the Bible’s text), Jesus predicted his own death and subsequent resurrection. The disciples and all who followed Jesus simply missed it. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus also said he’s coming again.

He is risen … JUST AS HE SAID!


Sheep Without A Shepherd

What do you do when someone close to you dies, seemingly without warning? Of course, you’re shocked … bewildered … grief-stricken … frightened. People who had traveled with Jesus experienced all these emotions, but I expect they may have also been guilt-ridden. Especially Peter. holyweekAs soon as Peter denied knowing Christ, the impact of his denial caused an immediate reaction. He ran from the area and “… wept bitterly.” Scant clues tell us where he went that night. Remember the earlier night when he struggled to stay awake while Jesus was praying? I doubt he slept on this night; he probably huddled somewhere running all the events over in his mind, again and again. How could I have been so foolish? How could I have been so foolish?!

We also know Judas, the betrayer, was filled with regret, admitting “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”  The same scripture passage says Judas tossed away the reward for his betrayal and went out and hanged himself.

After that, the scriptures shift their narrative focus onto the quickly-unfolding events involving Jesus. With appearances before government officials and religious leaders, his responses to their questions, the condemnation of Jesus by the crowd and subsequent release of Barabbas, then we see Jesus carrying the cross to the place of execution, culminating with Jesus being nailed to the cross.

For the remaining disciples, wherever they found shelter, there were surely troubling questions in each of their minds. What did we do wrong? How did we misunderstand? What are we going to do now?

People deal with Death in different ways. I think Peter may have hid himself; he was understandably ashamed. Mary, Martha and the risen Lazarus were likely together, whether in lodging in Jerusalem or at their home in Bethany (not far away). The other disciples probably scattered … like frightened sheep. Remember, Jesus warned them they’d be like sheep without a shepherd.

What would they do without Jesus? It was inconceivable that he was gone! What would they do?!

They couldn’t answer that question … but Sunday was coming.


What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Crucifixion Day. People know this day as Good Friday, the day on which Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross. The Good Friday designation may be a better slogan, less jarring to the public perception, I suppose, but it should go without saying, this day was anything but good for its central figure, Jesus Christ.

As a specific point in history, Good Friday was unquestionably a day like none other. It was, in fact, decidedly worse than Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Way more devastating than the damage done by rampaging hordes of the Middle Ages or the raping, pillaging conquerors of Genghis Khan‘s day. (No, my intent is not to make light of Good Friday, but rather to acknowledge, in a world where terrible, horrible, awful things happen every single day, the Crucifixion event belongs in a category all its own.)

The Creator of all mankind didn’t design the world with Death. Adam and Eve were created to enjoy and thrive in a perfect garden. They were given a luxurious pristine world, but the couple chose to reject God’s provision. By rejecting God (believing instead the lies of a serpent), their act of rebellion (sin) brought Death. From that moment, everything on the planet − everything − was forever tainted by Death’s decay.

Yet, even before the two humans were expelled from Eden, God himself provided a way of escape:  blood was shed to clothe the pair. Blood, the only means for reconciling man to God, the proof and promise from God that for a now-broken world, all was not lost.Bible_006

Fast-forward the narrative to Holy Week. Jesus has already demonstrated the power to call a man, Lazarus, out from the grave! Lazarus had been in the grave four days; when Jesus instructed the tomb be opened, Martha balked. She reminded Jesus there’d be a stench after four days of decay.

The Jews in his company recalled an earlier miracle when Jesus healed a blind man, and they were quick to suggest Jesus might have kept Lazarus from dying … if only he’d been there. The multitudes following Jesus had witnessed the earlier healing and were amazed by the miracles. (In fact, many who continued to follow Jesus into Jerusalem were just as interested in seeing Lazarus, knowing he was the man Jesus had raised from the dead!)

Mary echoed the crowd’s lament:  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

But nobody (not Mary, not Martha, not the disciples in his company, not even the multitudes who witnessed other miracles) ever supposed Jesus would do what he did, saying “… with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’”

Because nobody − NOBODY! − had yet understood Jesus, the one and only son of God, held power over the grave. This was beyond their understanding … this was what C. S. Lewis aptly described as “the deeper magic from before the dawn of time.” (From chapter fifteen, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.)

The blood shed back in Eden foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion. Because the sin of Adam (and Eve) was perpetrated by humans, animal sacrifice was never an effective (once-for-all) solution. Human sin called for human amends. Adam couldn’t volunteer to die for Eve’s sins … when he died, it was the just punishment for his sins. Nor could a sacrificial act by Eve cover Adam’s sins … she had her own sins, and the penalty for them was Death.Bible_007

A Human, one sinless (perfect) human, could die for all − which is exactly what happened on the day of the Crucifixion. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life (being “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin”) and he suffered an ignominious death on the Cross … not because Jesus sinned but rather to pay the penalty of my sin!

When my kids were younger, they’d have exclaimed, That’s not fair! Why should Jesus die for me (or them)? And they’re right … it wasn’t fair, but sin required payment. Jesus paid the penalty in my place.

Consider this though:  it wouldn’t have meant anything at all for Jesus to simply die, just another poor sap in the long line of human history who died an inglorious Death. Three men were crucified that day. All three of them were buried but the bodies of two men remained in their pauper’s graves.

Jesus did not remain in the grave!

Jesus had to go t-h-r-o-u-g-h Death … dying wasn’t enough! Recall that memorable scene from Braveheart when William Wallace says “All men die but not all men really live.” In his humanity, Jesus did what all men do:  he died. In his deity, Jesus did what no man can do:  he defeated Death!

In my earlier post, A Life On Loan, I recounted the ultimate sacrifice of one soldier (Sgt. Daniel Ferguson) to spare the lives of his imperiled associates. The Crucifixion demonstrates the greatest love, Jesus laying down his life for all.

In yesterday’s post, I noted The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and continues to be) a transformative event.” Allow me to restate my observation with added emphasis:  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and is) THE singular, most transformative event in human history.

Death has been vanquished, once-for-all! The horrific tragedy of Crucifixion Day made Resurrection Day possible. Why would anyone knowingly choose to die for their own sins when Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, has already paid the penalty in his flesh?


The Rock

Simon Peter … numbered among the twelve apostles, a prominent figure in the New Testament, an intimate of Jesus Christ. By trade, Peter was a fisherman who left his day job to follow Christ. The Gospel accounts show Peter was a blustery man, given to acting impulsively and speaking his mind.

I tend to identify with Peter. As I’ve aged, I’ve managed better control over my impulses (I have yet to slice off an ear … mostly due to lack of sword accessibility), but speaking my mind is the greater challenge. I identify with Peter’s bluster, his boldness in declaring loyalty that has yet to be tested. When I think of Peter, the face that comes to mind is John Rhys-Davies, the burly British actor whose roles mostly portray a brave adventurer and feisty but loyal friend, someone who will stand by your side … to the death!John Rhys-Davies

Indeed, Peter stood by Jesus, even as the soldiers came to haul Jesus away. What’s not to admire about that daring friend whose sword stands ready in defense?! He had much still to learn from Jesus but Peter’s heart was so solid … so rooted … toward the Savior!

At first, Peter wasn’t an especially detail-oriented individual, but to his credit, he was drawn by a relationship with Jesus. He had (as mentioned in yesterday’s post) “left everything” and on that occasion at least challenged Jesus to explain exactly what Peter would “get out of it.” (Matthew 19:27) I wonder how Peter might have responded if Jesus had enumerated all the things the future actually held for Peter?

But Jesus knew Peter’s heart. He wasn’t yet The Rock Jesus predicted he would become eventually. Still, when Jesus had asked Peter, “Who do people say I am? … Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20), Peter daringly asserted:  “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Given subsequent interactions between Jesus and Peter, it seems improbable Peter understood the full scope of his declaration, but with small steps, he was embracing a bold faith to complement his bold pronouncements. Like all of us, Peter was flawed. Within a brief time of swearing he would fight − to the death − for Jesus, he had (as Jesus foretold) denied his friend, denied his friend again, and then with cursing, issued a final agonizing denial.

For National Poetry Month, this poem supposes a modern-day translation of Peter’s staunch claim that he’d never deny Christ.


Like I said earlier, I identify with Peter’s failures. I can’t imagine having the devastating experience of denying − three times − my close personal relationship with Christ and immediately realizing I have demonstrated the depth of my own wickedness!

Jesus already knew. Jesus had already forgiven his friend. Following the Resurrection of Jesus, Peter was transformed, bolder still and wiser, but marvelously tempered by the grace of God at work in his life. He became the Rock, a defender of the faith, just as Jesus had promised he would be.

Don’t take my word for it. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and continues to be) a transformative event. There are four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Read just one, take a fresh look, approach the story as if it’s totally new, totally unfamiliar to you. Do you dare?


Mary’s Lavish Gift

Often, when an event is familiar, people have a tendency to get careless about its essential meaning. We recount the events of Holy Week yearly; and instead of becoming more precious over time, the events of this week lose their significance, receding into dullness.

So today, experiment with me, if you will. Close your eyes and try to imagine some of the scenes retold in the Gospels as if you’d never heard the story before. (Come on, work with me here!)

The week-long Jewish holiday the disciples were preparing to celebrate was all too familiar to them; to some extent, they were going through the motions, entering Jerusalem (as they had done many times before) to participate in Passover.65776_passover_md

No, the festive atmosphere wasn’t lost on them. Like most religious holidays, this one included the requisite triumvirate − food, fun and fellowship. After their recent weeks of travel and managing the crowds that constantly surrounded Jesus, who would blame the disciples for hoping to relax over a tasty meal and a glass of wine?

It wasn’t going to be easy though. With the memory still fresh of those crowds who had vigorously welcomed Jesus at his entry into Jerusalem, an undercurrent of puzzlement gripped many of the disciples. The crowds had worshipped him, throwing palm leaves and their garments onto the ground, crying out Hosanna! Why would they act that way … unless they were ready to make him king? What else could it mean?

Added to this confusion, a growing dissension had cropped up in their midst. Peter was angling for a more prominent role. He’d already confronted Jesus: “We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?” (Matthew 19:27, The Message) Others were grumbling as well. James and John’s mother even proposed to Jesus that her sons should be the ones to be seated on both sides of him! (Matthew 20:20-28)

With seven days of feasting and celebration ahead of them, the disciples probably considered the familiarity of the events a welcome distraction from their usual concerns. Partake in a few quiet meals and good wine, renew old friendships with other observant Jews … and the perplexing questions could be postponed until after Passover.

At least, that’s what they might have thought. But of course, the week played out quite differently from what they’d expected.

Contrast the disciples’ mindset to another interesting character. Because she was a woman, her role appears to have been less prominent. Her name isn’t even mentioned in three of the Gospels; she’s just a woman. However, in John 12:3, she’s identified as Mary; yes, the same Mary who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Mary’s presence on the periphery didn’t mean she wasn’t listening. In fact, she paid close attention to everything Jesus said. She’d heard him say: “I’m going to Jerusalem to die.” (Matthew 16:21, 17:22, 26:2) “They’re going to kill me … but on the third day, I’ll rise again.”

When Jesus and his disciples reclined for dinner one feast night, Mary went into action. She quietly entered the dining room and knelt beside Jesus. In the next moment, she pulled an alabaster vial from the folds of her dress and broke it. The pungent aroma of perfume filled the room as she poured liquid from the vial onto Jesus’ head.

A murmur arose around the table as disciples eyed each other quizzically. What’s this? A new twist for Passover?

Oblivious to all others in the room … except for Jesus, Mary continued, silently lavishing her perfume over Jesus’ feet, then wiping them tenderly, worshipfully, with her hair. The fragrance began to permeate the whole residence.

Before she’d finished, several of the disciples objected, indignant by this wasteful act! “That perfume could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor!” Such profligacy! Perhaps Peter’s earlier grumble had begun to resonate with the others. (We left everything to follow you! Where’s the payoff for us?)

Jesus immediately rebuked them. “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” (Matthew 26:12) Had any of these men listened to him when he was talking about his death?

In serving Jesus Christ, I often find myself thinking cost/benefit ratios when I mean to be pursuing worshipful action. It’s almost impossible to worship extravagantly when I’m seeking to identify what might be the payoff for me. Jesus, on the other hand, was extravagantly resolute; though knowing he would die in Jerusalem, he steadfastly entered the city. (Luke 9:51)

For National Poetry Month, I offer this retelling of Mary’s extravagant gift, a poem reproduced from an 1880 hymnal and written by Charles Lawrence Ford.




Greatly To Be Praised

Because I know how the scenario ends, I find it difficult to focus on the events of Holy Week with a somber face and attitude.

In the same vein, I could only view the film The Passion of the Christ a single time. That one viewing brought into full view the significance of Bible passages like Isaiah 53:5 “… he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities … by his scourging we are healed.” Viewing the film once was all that was necessary for my personal clarity.

As I was contemplating today’s post, I viewed a video that gave a moving reminder of how great our God is. With the marvelous setting and stunningly beautiful music, it was (for me) four minutes of worship.

I have posted on this blog more than a few posts relating my love and ecstatic enjoyment of music. For today’s nod to National Poetry Month, the poem below obliquely references two friends of Jesus (Mary and Martha) and speaks to my personal Mary (eager to be at the feet of Jesus) and Martha (distracted by the cares of the world) tendencies. Music reminds me about the One who matters most.

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